PREVIEW: Vikes look to defend home court at U SPORTS Final 8 in Victoria

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UVic's Nicole Karstein (10) powered the Vikes to a 67-54 win over MacEwan University in earlier playoff action this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Cameron Doherty, Vikes Communications
Photos: Christian J. Stewart, ISN

March 9, 2017, VICTORIA – For the first time since 1993 the UVic Vikes women’s basketball team will welcome the best teams from across the country to battle it out for the right to be called the best in the nation.

Coming into the tournament as the No. 8 seed, the Vikes will be in tough in their opening game that gets underway on March 9 at 8:00 p.m. Waiting for the Vikes in that game are the University of Carleton Ravens, the No. 1 seed in both the tournament and all of U SPORTS.

The Vikes Jenna Bugiardini would finish with 12 points Saturday, including two late free throws that put the game on ice for Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Vikes Jenna Bugiardini  (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The rest of the Vikes games will depend on their result in that first contest, with a possible semifinal game taking place at 4:00 p.m., on March 11 or a consolation semifinal scheduled for 8:00 p.m., on the 10.

UVic's Jenna Krug (6) would score 11 points Friday to help the Vikes to their 67-54 win over MacEwan in their opening playoff game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
UVic’s Jenna Krug (6)  (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Despite being the No. 8 seed the Vikes don’t have to look far for inspiration when it comes to a higher-seeded team winning the national championship. The last time UVic captured the prestigious Bronze Baby Trophy was in 2002-03, that team entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed and a key figure on their underdog run is current Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair.

“The group that won that year is a good example of an underdog team that was playing their best basketball at the right time,” said Sinclair. “We went into that tournament understanding that it was a clean slate and we just took advantage of our opportunity.”

Last Time Out

The last time the Vikes were in action was in the Canada West quarter-finals against the Winnipeg Wesmen. The team was unable to advance in the best-of-three series but did score an important 74-69 victory in game number two.

The Vikes were cheered on Saturday by a rather robust cheering section that sat directly behind the MacEwan bench and did their best to distract the visiting team (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Vikes hope to pack the gym with their crazy fans Thursday night (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“To have gotten that win was huge,” said Sinclair. “Winnipeg is a great team and we feel like we can play with all the top teams in the country so huge for ourselves to be able to do that and I hope we can take that into this weekend.”

With the loss in the quarter-finals the Vikes will be the only team at the tournament to have not played in a conference championship tournament last weekend, something that could play to their advantage.

UVic's Kristy Gallagher (9) drives into the lane past MacEwan defender Kendall Lydon (15) during the Vikes 68-60 win Saturday night (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
UVic’s Kristy Gallagher (9) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“We would have loved to play in the Canada West Final Four but at this stage in the season you have to live with what you have,” said Sinclair. “We took advantage of that time we had off to get rested and prepared…we will make it an advantage and make it a good thing.”

“We can’t dwell on the fact that we didn’t qualify, if we go out and get the job done no one will even remember that we didn’t actually qualify.”

Vikes Head Coach Dani Sinclair (centre) goes over strategy during a time out in Friday's game against MacEwan (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Vikes Head Coach Dani Sinclair (centre) goes over strategy during a time out in a playoff game against MacEwan (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Carleton comes into the tournament as the hottest team in the country. Since losing their first regular season game of the year, the Ravens have reeled off 20 straight victories en route to the program’s first-ever OUA championship.

In picking up wins over both McMaster and Queen’s at the OUA Final Four, the Ravens knocked off what were then the No. 1 and No. 5 teams in the U SPORTS national rankings.

“They are physical, very tough defensively and a good rebounding team,” said Sinclair. “From an offensive standpoint we are going to have to try some things to dictate that side of the floor and then for us defensively we have to win the rebounding battle because they are big and they rebound the ball.”

UVic's Nicole Karstein (10) had another good night in the paint, contributing 14 points to the Vikes 68-60 win over MacEwan (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
UVic’s Nicole Karstein (10)  (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

By the Numbers

51.1: The number of points per game Carleton allowed during the regular season, the lowest in the OUA.

3: The Ravens have three players averaging double-digits points per game: Catherine Traer, Heather Lindsay and Elizabeth Leblanc are all threats offensively.

9: The number of national championships UVic has won in the program’s storied history: the most of any school in the nation.

Coach’s Take
Dani Sinclair, Vikes head coach

“One of the big reasons the push was made for us to host because of what a great basketball community Victoria has. There is a ton of history here, we have a beautiful new facility and we have the best fans in the country. To be able to showcase that to the whole country is really special.”

“For us the chip on our shoulder is to prove that we belong here, if we are able to come in here and make some noise there is no asterisk beside our name because we didn’t qualify.

“Across the board it is pretty open, probably the most open tournament that we’ve seen in a long time so there should be exciting games throughout. There is evidence in basketball especially, that anything can happen and this year in particular will be hard for anyone to predict exactly where everyone is going to end up.”

“Long term we are hoping to engage more people, there has been a lot of work done to engage the community and youth basketball and that will have an effect on young female basketball players to want to play basketball at the next level.”

Game Information

Thursday, Mar. 9 – 8:00 p.m. – vs. Carleton Ravens, CARSA Performance Gym, Victoria, BC
Watch live on canadawest.tv – Buy tickets at govikesgo.com – UVic Students receive complimentary tickets to Thursday night game with their ONECARD

Carleton Raven (21-1)
U SPORTS National Ranking: 1
OUA Regular Season Results: North Division Champions
Last Week: W 2
Streak: W 21
Last OUA Title: 2017
Last U SPORTS Title: N/A

FULL TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Wednesday, March 8

6:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Basketball All-Canadian Awards

Thursday, March 9

12:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.3 Queen’s vs. No. 6 Cape Breton

2:00 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No. 2 Saskatchewan vs. No. 7 Laval

6:00 p.m. Quarter-final 3: No. 4 McGill vs. No. 5 Regina

8:00 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No. 1 Carleton vs. No. 8 Victoria

Friday, March 10

6:00 p.m. Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2

8:00 p.m. Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4

Saturday, March 11

2:00 p.m. Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)

4:00 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)

7:00 p.m. 5th-place game

Sunday, March 12

10:00 a.m. Bronze

1:00 p.m. Final (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)

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